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Dialing up Savings (BT, energy saving)

15 March 2010

BT has recently started implementing a new energy management strategy across its estate that will see the telecoms giant reduce its energy spend by £15m by 2012. Frank Booty reports on how it is going about it

BT HAS A VAST AND VARIED ESTATE that encompasses approximately 7,500 buildings which emit a total of 1.17m tonnes of CO2 – the equivalent of filling 17.5 million 25 metre swimming pools.  Between 2004 and 2008, BT's energy spend rose from £110m to £211m. BT is committed to greatly reducing its carbon emissions by 2016, and has implemented a new energy savings campaign to reduce its consumption by £15m over the next two years.
BT Group Property is working closely with the broader business to meet this target and is responsible for a number of initiatives that have already resulted in both carbon and cost savings. One of the main focus areas of the new strategy is to increase collaboration with BT's key suppliers, including its FM providers, as well as motivating and engaging BT employees to change their behaviour and take actions to support the reduction in energy consumption. BT is currently well on track to achieve it's first milestones – in-year cost savings of £7m (across BT in year savings) and a reduction in CO2 emissions by 8.5 percent by this month.
BT is one of the first large occupiers to implement such a broad-ranging energy management programme, and in many cases the key lessons learned from the campaign have filtered down to BT's suppliers, who are implementing the programmes in their own buildings. Jeff Nash, head of sustainable estates, who is co-ordinating the strategy on behalf of BT Group Property, and Stuart Harris, head of energy and carbon operations at BT, are keen advocates for the strategy and the initiatives that underpin it.
According to Nash, “The basis for the success of the Property’s collaboration with the broader business and our work with key suppliers, including FM providers. One of our main challenges is that most of BT’s estate is quite old. It is split into operational and non-operational – the former comprising telephone exchanges, call centres, computer centres, data centres, and the latter our offices. We also have an extensive fleet of vehicles.”
The exchanges can be anything from 30 to 50 years of age, while the best offices are typically 10 years old but not rated to the BREEAM excellent standard. Nash points to a building near Birmingham which is being monitored to BREEAM standards for existing buildings. Another building in Brentwood received an energy saving award when it was constructed 10 years ago.
BT has set itself the target of reducing its carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2016, and while the utilisation of renewable energy will play a major part in achieving this, mobilising its employees and suppliers to reduce their own consumption is a key part of the strategy. Thus far, the strategy has proven to be very successful, generating savings of £5m/year already. According to Harris, one of the main challenges of implementing the strategy was coming up with a way to instruct people – both staff and suppliers – of the targets in a meaningful way.
“At the end of the day, it all comes down to cash, “he explained. “We have found that the best way to make carbon savings tangible is by converting them into actual pounds saved. For example, if we achieve our goal of 2 percent reduction in annual electricity consumption, the savings would be 45.6 GWh, saving £11.4m. This would supply 10,000 homes for a year or light the streets of Essex for just over a year. Explaining to people how much money they are saving the business by turning off their PCs, for example, has made a marked difference.”
However, certain actions are hard to influence. Difficulties are still arising around temperature settings, for example, which Monterey, BT’s FM provider, is responsible for. BT’s legacy estate also means that it is not possible to repair a lot of issues that arise. In many small buildings in the estate, for example, there are old Satchwell OCS21 optimisers which are not energy efficient and cannot be repaired. To remedy this, BT has brought in Adams International to install a wireless control system, which is accessible over the internet.
Many building management systems (BMS) can be operated without thinking about what could be done to save energy. What BT is doing utilising no cost or low cost actions is, for example, to reset occupation times in up to 100 buildings. It was found that with such low cost actions, investment decisions have a payback in periods from one to two years. Simple measures are producing fantastic savings.
Trend BMS are used to maintain large buildings, and up to 600 of these systems are linked to a server located in Sheffield. The Monterey team can log on to see where any problems are, and teams can act on the intelligent information to make necessary decisions. With some 2,000 heating systems being monitored, there is constant activity.
This year there is a £1.1m investment in installing variable speed drives on plant and systems with a scheduled two year payback period. Boiler controls linked to the BMS have been implemented by Adams, while three trial sites have been equipped with Sabien’s boiler load optimisation technology – these have already demonstrated savings of 16 percent.
Harris points out that nearly all of the estate is equipped with electricity AMR (automatic meter reading) so that “We can identify problems on sites.” Gas AMR will be rolled out by June 2010. Additional building energy management systems (BEMS) at 1,500 sites to be installed this year are to be linked to air conditioning systems, refrigeration plants, etc. Central cooling is being replaced with modular cooling units. Most network equipment centres and exchanges feature modular cooling facilities.
Of BT’s 100,000 staff, some 40,000 are field engineers in the BT OpenReach (broadband work) and BT Operate (exchange environments) divisions.
“Data is provided to staff in a meaningful format,” says Nash. “There are carbon clubs in different locations where teams can brainstorm ideas, talk to colleagues and look at funding issues for any projects they might like implement.”
“A variety of energy saving schemes have been running for over a year now,” says Harris. “We take energy saving ideas to staff, reinforcing all the teams, and have begun to extend our concepts to all our key suppliers and FM providers.”
This month, BT is setting up a call centre challenge where people working at the four biggest call centres will be encouraged to make savings. Buy-in has been obtained from senior management at the BT Retail operation. If the initiative is successful, it will be rolled out to all 14 BT call centres.
No new building is currently planned, but BT has won contracts for IT work at two councils – Bristol and Newcastle – where BT is involved in joint venture exercises to provide the relevant property needs. There is the key opportunity to ensure the properties adhere to all regulations and energy-saving initiatives.
BT is mothballing space and trying to stay in the most energy efficient locations. On the operational estates side of BT, the 21st Century network build-out will require changes to
buildings so that new equipment can be installed. Networks equipment is notorious for producing excess heat and creating cooling problems.
Telereal and Monterey are involved in an exercise at five trial sites around Glasgow where heat generated by equipment is being used to heat welfare space. If the trial is successful, the solution will be rolled out across all 20 to 30 year old buildings in BT’s estate.
“BT cannot do all of this on its own,” says Nash. “It takes companies like Monterey and Telereal, and other people, to get involved and engaged in identifying solutions.”
Harris adds, “We have made and continue to make lots of investment in the engagement of people in energy saving schemes, and seeing that good housekeeping – the basic stuff that people may already be doing at home – is practised.”
Equally BT is also eyeing renewable energy solutions, for example the use of wind farms. BT announced plans in October 2007 to build a series of wind farms across the UK as part of a £250m scheme that will be the UK's biggest corporate wind-power project outside the energy sector. The wind development project - named project Scarlett - will result in the development of a series of wind farms that will meet 25 per cent of BT’s UK electricity needs by 2016.
In addition, two sets of CHP – combined heat and power – generating 2.5MW electricity are on trial at the Adastral research complex, with reject heat from the systems being utilised for chilling purposes in a data centre.
In sum, BT argues that energy saving is something that everyone can relate to, and indeed make a contribution, no matter how small.

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